SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won plans to double as a chair of SK Telecom for the AI business. South Korean conglomerates work on the AI technologies spearheaded by their tycoons. Photo courtesy of SK Group

Chairman Chey will double as chair of SK Telecom

South Korea’s tech giants like Samsung and LG have been pulled out all the stops to preempt the AI market. And now, brick-and-mortar outfits like SK and Hyundai Motor also join the AI frenzy.

SK Group announced this week that its Chairman Chey Tae-won would double as a chair of SK Telecom, the country’s foremost wireless operator, to accelerate the development of AI-related business.

“We cannot afford to delay the innovation to become a global AI company. We don’t have much time to challenge to do so,” Chey said in a message to employees.

Last month, SK Telecom unveiled its plan to set up Sapeon Inc. in the United States along with SK hynix and SK Square. The new entity will focus on the AI chip business, targeting global tech companies there.

Sapeon refers to SK Telecom’s AI chip, which the firm claims computes 1.5 times faster than typical GPUs used for AI while consuming some 20 percent less power.

Hyundai Motor Group, the country’s largest automaker, also strives to set up an AI research center to secure the technology necessary for autonomous driving.

“The competitiveness of our futuristic products lies in software source technologies, including AI,” Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Eui-sun said in a New Year address in January. “We are set to found an AI research lab at a place where outstanding talents are available.”

Observers point out that a mounting number of corporations pay attention to next-generation technologies, including AI.

“In the past, just high-tech entities worked on AI technologies. However, even brick-and-mortar companies go all-out to venture into the AI sector,” Seoul-based business tracker Leaders Index CEO Park Ju-gun said.

“In particular, SK Telecom and Hyundai Motor have a large-sized database about their customers, which are necessary for the AI business. They have good reasons to venture into the AI industry,” he said.